Friday

72 Hours in Lisbon (Solo)

A very long time ago, I visited Lisbon with my grandparents. My only strong memory was looking down at the trippy black & white floor, so I really wanted to revisit the Portuguese capital as an adult (and hopefully remember more than just the ground). As luck would have it, the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by Lisbon and, as I'd already promised myself I'd attend, I managed to tick both goals off at once. My Eurovision experience was great (read all about it here), but I gave myself an extra day either side so I could explore the city too. My third solo adventure was quite the experience!

Travelling solo as a woman in Lisbon

THE LOCALS

I thought there couldn't be an airport worse than Stansted. I was wrong. When I landed in Lisbon Portela Airport, I found the taxi rank and joined what can only be called The Longest Queue in the World. There was no shortage of taxis- in fact, there was a policeman at the head of the line ushering passengers into multiple approaching taxis before they'd even pulled up- but it still took me half an hour to reach my cab. Still, the driver was absolutely lovely and we had a great chat on the way to my hostel, where he told me all about how I could go to the beach because I'm 'too white' (ok thanks?) When we reached my accommodation, he came round to the door and I handed him his fare. At which point he said "I'm sorry". Cue panicking about whether I'd undertipped and hugely offended him. He handed me my change, looking down at my hand as I took the note with my bright yellow nails, and continued "I have to ask... are they natural?" Having just had this very conversation on the plane a couple of hours earlier, I cheerily replied "No, of course not!" To which his eyes popped out of his head, and he said "I'm sorry, I just had to ask. Because I've never seen such beautiful breasts". And that's the story of how I accidentally told a Portuguese taxi driver about my non-existent boob job. 

Lisbon rooftops

I'd like to say this was an isolated incident, but it wasn't. I don't know if it's because I was a lone woman, or because my chest is quite prominent (or both), or if it was just coincidence, but I did have a lot of male attention. From catcalls out of cars (unfortunately my Portuguese is worse than Colin Firth's in Love Actually so I have no idea what they said), to invitations for drinks, to comedy double-takes so exaggerated that I felt like I was in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, it was relentless. The good news is that everyone I encountered was very polite about it. Most of the men didn't actually approach me, and those who did were very respectful and immediately left me alone when I declined their offers for drinks. Just something to be aware of. 

THE HOSTEL

I stayed at a place quite far out of the city centre called The Dorm. It's in an area known as LX Factory, which is converted from an old industrial part of Lisbon. Although it wasn't right in the middle of the action, there was a tram stop just around the corner (but I got Ubers most of the time at a cost of about €5 each way). Of course, the big positive of being outside the city centre is the quiet, chill atmosphere. LX Factory is self-contained and pedestrian-friendly, with independent shops, restaurants and cafes arranged around a central square factory building. The whole place just has a hipster kind of vibe, so it was a really interesting place to stay.

The Dorm Hostel LX Factory Lisbon

The reason why I chose The Dorm was because a) it was cheap (€25 a night) and b) every single bed was in its own little cubicle with personal light, locker, power outlet, three hooks and a curtain for privacy. The whole time I was there, I didn't see any of the eight people I was sharing a room with. It really was like having your own tiny room. There was only one bathroom (with three showers and two toilets) for all the girls in the hostel but it was absolutely spotless- the cleanest I've ever seen in a hostel- and only once did I see another person in there. 

Lisbon tiles

It was, without doubt, the nicest hostel I've ever stayed in, and I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again. The only problem was that they wouldn't store my bag for me on the last day, although the man on the desk was really nice about it and went to great lengths to find a nearby storage locker for me. As I had a very late flight, I just went to the airport and stored my bag in their left luggage facility before getting the metro back into the city. It turned out to be a very quick and easy solution.

THE TRANSPORT

I truly made the most of Lisbon's transport options. First I flew in (obviously), then I got a standard taxi to the hostel before getting an Uber back into town. I got the train to Eurovision, took the metro into the city the following day, had a little tram ride and, of course, ventured about on foot. Luckily, it's a very easy city to navigate. There is a 24-hour public transport card which is great, but you can only buy it from metro stations so that was a little inconvenient, especially as my hostel was nowhere near the metro. You also need to make sure you validate your ticket. Although the metro stations I went to had ticket barriers, the overground trains didn't. Of course I forgot, and spent the whole 20 minute journey back from Eurovision panicking that I'd get a huge fine (I saw this happen to a Brit in Copenhagen and he actually called his solicitor right there on the platform!) The ticket inspector never appeared but still- don't forget to validate your ticket! 

Lisbon yellow tram 25

Of course, Lisbon is famous for its trams, and I bloody love a tram, so I made sure to jump on one of the old historic routes. I worked out a little journey that involved getting the metro to Martim Moniz, walking up approximately eleven thousand steps to the terrace at Jardim da Graça, and then getting the 28 tram back down the hill. That plan was destroyed by the fact that roadworks had halted the tram route. I'm very grateful that I'd followed the tracks down the hill hoping to get some good photos of the tram before I boarded, eventually coming across the road block and realising why it was so quiet, rather than standing at the tram stop for all eternity. I kept wandering down the hill until I reached a busy road and, as luck would have it, a number 12 tram was pulling up just beside me, so I quickly hopped on and enjoyed watching all the tourists take photos as we rattled through the narrow streets (At one point I caught sight of myself in a shop window and realised my yellow top perfectly matched the yellow of the tram. I like to think that made a cute photo for someone). 

Lisbon 25 de Abril bridge

Lisbon is, obviously, beautiful. Its twisted labyrinthine alleys, cobbled roads and steep hills make for absolutely stunning aesthetics. They do not make for comfortable walking. Of course all the locals merrily rushed past me as I died a slow, painful death on the steps (mercifully, the weather was cool!) One elderly man jogged up the steps past me, then down again a bit later, then up past me for a second time! I have never felt more unfit in my whole life! At least I got some cute photos though and let's face it, they last longer than the burning in my thighs! (And the memories of course, yada yada). 

THE CULTURE

With Eurovision on my second evening, and my final day spent mainly scaling steps like they were Mount Everest, I didn't get to visit as many cultural sites as I usually would. On my first day, I spent some time looking around the Gulbenkian art museum. It's absolutely huge and spread over two buildings, so it's a little confusing at first but I found the staff were perfectly happy to point the way (and don't laugh when you take a complete wrong turn). I was looking for one artefact in particular, which I never found so I think the website is lying to me, so I kind of rushed through the collection and I wish now I'd taken my time. They have some beautiful textiles from all over the world, as well as some paintings by University Challenge favourites Turner and Manet. (If it's a painting question and you don't know the answer, say one of those two and 90% of the time you'll be correct). 

Lisbon panorama

I had a lovely time exploring Lisbon on my own, and it was great to make some new memories to add to that one fragment I have from the 90s. With so many other cities to discover, I don't think I'll be returning in the near future, but I definitely haven't written it out. Obrigado Lisboa! 

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1 comment :

  1. Oh I did laugh at your taxi conversation! whoops! hehe
    I've had the situation where old folk have been dashing past me on stairs/hills/anywhere rally while I'm dying and it never feels good!

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